Google News app bug burns through gigabytes of user mobile data

Users are reporting sharp spikes in data usage via the app, sometimes leading to hundreds of dollars in mobile data fees.

Users of the Google News app have turned to online forums to complain of excessive usage of background mobile data which has cost some hundreds of dollars in charges.

Reports have surfaced of the problem in the Google News help forum, Reddit, and on Twitter. The problem appears to have started as far back as June and is ongoing with reports of excessive data use still flooding into the Google forum today.

One user on the Google forum reported that Google News managed to use "7.65GB of background data overnight."

"I was connected to Wi-Fi but the signal was weak so its possible it was connecting/disconnecting," the user said. "Even still ... have no idea how Google News would have a way to use that much in such a short time unless there was a problem."

Other users replied to the forum post with similar problems. One community member said that Google News managed to slurp up 1.32 in background mobile data; while another reported the loss of 1.6 GB.

However, more extreme cases quickly surfaced.

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Google Forum member Shaun Creighton, for example, shared a screenshot of his mobile device's data usage between August and September.

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"When I tapped on the Google News data usage, it said there had been 4.10GB of data used in the background since August 27," the user said. "I clicked on the previous 3 months, and the highest background data usage for Google News for the entire month was 46.07MB, which is about 90x less than what I've used in just the last few days!"

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"I deleted the app as soon as I realized what was ruining my life," a separate user chipped in. "It had just been on the default settings (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) that it set to when it updated around August 27 [...] I received 33 text messages around 9am on Sept 15 from AT&T letting me know that it was buying more data for me at $15/GB. I went through each individual app's data usage info until I found the Google News app was the culprit."

Another victim of the apparent issue, Ross Wachendorf, says that the app has caused $240 in charges.

It appears that excessive background data usage spiked in the last week of September for many users. Up to 23GB was consumed by the Google News service in the worst reported cases, which span across the US and United Kingdom.

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User Sunny Stueve said that together with their partner, the Google News app absorbed 24GB in data over two mobile devices in the course of one night.

"My husband's bill just came in at $385 from Verizon," the user said. "How is Google compensating its users? After an hour with Google tech support (who made me feel like I was the one to blame) I deleted the news app that day and am now enjoying SmartNews. Very poor handling of this situation, Google."

This high level of background data usage is certainly not normal and caught the attention of one of the Google News team, Lisa Wang, who said in September that, "relevant teams are currently investigating and working towards a fix."

This, combined with the multitude of reports, suggests there may be some kind of programming issue or bug which is causing the high data usage, rather than there being a problem with user settings.

However, there has been no update on the issue since September 27.

As a workaround, turning off the background data for the Google News app via Settings > Apps and notifications > Data usage > Allow background data usage in the Android app appears to be working, but this can only be a temporary fix.

Some users have simply deleted the app altogether to avoid additional charges.

ZDNet has reached out to Google and will update if we hear back.

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